Accessible and Stylish: Universal Kitchen Design Principles for Every Home

September 18, 2023 Kitchen Pepup Team

At the center of every household, the kitchen thrives as a lively focal point of activity. Universal design-style kitchens can go beyond the basic triangle layout to make your kitchen beautiful and functional for everyone in the family.

Universal design is a concept where everything people use in daily living must be accessible to everyone. So, if you are planning to renovate your kitchen space, look at the universal design principles. In this guide, we will make your kitchen area more inclusive to people.

What Is Universal Design?

Universal design has a mission that everyone can efficiently use the space regardless of age and abilities. At its best, universal design is not only functional for everyone in the household but also aesthetically pleasing.

When adequately executed, universal design elements should be seamlessly integrated into the overall design aesthetic while providing complete functionality for family members regardless of age or ability.

Here are eight things to consider when planning a kitchen design that’s friendly, usable, and comfortable for people of all ages:

  1. Movement and Flow: People prefer a clean kitchen, so having enough room to move around is essential. This is especially crucial if someone in your household uses mobility aids in the future. You need extra space between counters that can accommodate flow even when bar or table chairs are used. Most homeowners find that L-shaped or U-shaped kitchens are the most convenient layouts. Also, more room around appliances will be helpful when different generations simultaneously use the kitchen and dining areas.
  2. Lever or Touch-Free Faucets: Knobs can be hard to grip, especially for people with limited hand mobility. You can manage single-lever faucets with an open hand or closed fist, making them perfect for homes with people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. Lastly, touch- and voice-activated faucets are also great for this design, and they are now more common than ever in the kitchen.
  3. Countertop Heights: Varying the height of your kitchen countertops ensures that people of all sizes and abilities have a place to work comfortably. Lowered countertops are a bonus for kitchens where small children or seated elders can lend a hand. A countertop approximately 30 inches high is equivalent to the height of a dining table and is suitable for various tasks, whether using a laptop or preparing food. On the other hand, a standard 36-inch countertop is preferred for most adults standing while preparing meals.
  4. Appliances Space: Be mindful of where you place your kitchen appliances. The universal design avoids putting appliances in corners or against walls because it can make them difficult to access. Leaving space on either side of an appliance allows people with limited mobility to access it without standing directly in front. To have easy access to kitchen utilities, an access door like the BA-AHD-SS BBQ Access Doors is extremely helpful for adults with less mobility.
  5. Pull-Out Storage: When designing kitchen cabinet storage, prioritize pull-out shelves. They make cabinets more accessible to everyone and reduce the need to strain your back or knees to reach items. Storage options like trash pull-outs, swing-up mixer shelves, and pull-down shelves offer more flexible use and can be maneuvered by people of all abilities.
  6. Smart Appliances: They are becoming famous in modern kitchens. Beyond their advanced features, here’s why you should consider integrating smart appliances into your kitchen design:
  • Safety Alerts: Many smart appliances have sensors and connectivity to detect unusual situations. For instance, if you accidentally leave your oven on or your refrigerator door open, these appliances can send alerts to your smartphone. This is helpful in preventing accidents. It is also valuable for people with cognitive challenges.
  • Remote Control: With smart appliances, you can control various functions remotely using your smartphone or voice commands. This is incredibly convenient for individuals with limited mobility or those who find reaching and operating appliances from a standing position challenging. You can preheat your oven, adjust your thermostat, or start your coffee maker without leaving your seat. 
  • Customization: Smart appliances often offer customization options, allowing you to adapt their settings to your needs. For example, you can program your dishwasher to run when it’s most convenient. With this personalization, you can ensure that kitchen appliances match your style and preferences.
  • Voice Activation: Voice-activated smart appliances, such as voice-controlled ovens or refrigerators, are now more accessible and user-friendly. Devices like these let you control various functions just by speaking to them. They are more user-friendly to people with disabilities.

7. Knee Space: If someone in your household uses a wheelchair, it’s helpful to have open space under the counter so they can sit flush with the countertop when preparing food. You can design your kitchen with wheelchair-accessible spaces for the future. In the meantime, consider custom cabinet or butcher block units that can fit seamlessly into that space and roll out for additional food prep space when needed.

8. Lighting: Ensure your kitchen lighting plan includes safety, task, and ambient lighting. This includes soft night lighting under cabinets and along the toe kicks for added safety. When you take the time to carefully plan your kitchen’s lighting and include elements like security, task, and ambient lighting, you’re not just guaranteeing a well-illuminated and visually pleasing kitchen.


Universal design principles can make your kitchen stylish and accessible to everyone. Whether you’re taking a journey on a kitchen renovation or building from the ground up, integrating these features will guarantee that your kitchen becomes a warm and practical space where every family member feels welcome, regardless of age or abilities.